Most people don’t know this about me, but fashion has always been an interest of mine. It’s hard for many people to imagine that I follow the industry when they usually see me in my running shorts and an ironic tee or baggy hoodie (that’s my post-run “lounge” wear of choice). But fashion has always been a passion of mine. I’ve had a Vogue Magazine subscription since I was 18, I used to go VIP/Press to fashion week, and I used to design my own outfits based on high fashion looks I loved (my mom, who is way more talented than I am with a sewing machine, would create them for me). So it seems that since I have a writing background and a knowledge base of the subject, going into fashion blogging would have been a natural step for me in life.
Nevertheless, I avoided it for a few reasons. I always felt like I had “more important” things I could be doing with my writing. When I graduated from college with my journalism degree, I landed an editorial internship at an award-winning city magazine. (Very exciting!) My first major article published? “The 4 Drinks You Must Have Before You Die.” It was for our bar issue. While I loved my job, this was during the Great Recession and I felt like maybe telling people what to drink at a bar wasn’t the best use of my degree. (I eventually moved on from the magazine to my first full-time staff job as a staff writer and editor at a weekly business newspaper, where I also became a writer for the sustainable fashion and restaurants beat.) By the time I came around to launching my own blog, I had a solid idea of what type of content I wanted to write and putting together fashion tutorials or beauty tips, didn’t really fit with my initial themes. With my blog in full swing, though, I’ve done a fair amount of evolving and branching out. Just last week I published my first YouTube video with a fashion take. (It’s a get ready with me for a date night look and you can watch it here.) I also received a free Marc Jacobs purse and have been thinking of how I’d like to talk about it on my blog or my channel (watch for a post on that coming in the next few weeks). The idea of putting together some written fashion pieces is starting to sound quite fun, but I still have some hesitation to jump into it. I like to talk a lot about mental health and other topics I find important on my blog. So I sometimes worry: Would my more weighty subjects be taken serious if I also write about fashion? Would I be covering too many topics on one blog?
*I’d like to take a moment to add a trigger warning: The next section discusses body image issues
The second major reason I have to not be a fashion blogger is actually also one of the reasons I feel maybe I should dip a toe into the fashion pool. I do not look like a model. I’m 5’4 (and a half!), with an athletic build, and I am incredibly self conscious about my body. In particular I have a love/hate relationship with my thighs and calves. While I love that my legs can power me through a 26.2 mile race at a sub 8-minute-mile pace, I hate that they are too muscular to really pull off skinny jeans well. To make matters slightly more difficult, I suffer from body dysmorphia and spent most of my college years in mandated therapy for an eating disorder—a combo of anorexia and excessive exercising. (I feel it is important to note that my love of fashion, while not always helpful, is not a causation for my body issues.) Presently, I’m in a place in life where my relationship with food has normalized (I eat regularly) and few but my closest friends are aware of any past (or persisting) issues with it. Well… until now, seeing as I just announced it in a very public way. To be 100 percent honest, though I’m currently in a great place with my eating issues, the anxiety around eating and my body image never fully goes away. It’s something I live with daily. Now that I have officially broached the subject of body dysmorphia and eating disorders on my blog, you can expect that I’ll carefully discuss it in greater detail in the future. These posts will always be labeled with a trigger warning, for obvious reasons. I haven’t exactly gone around advertising my issues with body image ever before, but I have felt for a while now that it’s an important thing to talk about. Much like my opinions on depression and alcoholism, I believe this is something unfairly portrayed in society and easily misunderstood by those who have no experience with it. There is also a fair amount of fear around openly talking about eating disorders as many worry that discussing experiences is really just “swapping pro-ana tips.” While this can happen, it doesn’t negate the importance to constructively talking about it. If I could accomplish one thing by openly talking about my experiences, I’d hope it would be to help create a better understanding and prevent those struggling with or recovering/ed from an eating disorder from feeling alone or worse, being treated like a damaged sub-human because of it (as a particularly tackless person once did to me).
At the moment, however, I’m only going to discuss how this particular aspect of my life influences my feelings towards fashion blogging and vlogging. Specifically photographs. Photos are one of the trickiest parts, for me, of maintaining a healthy relationship with food and my body. While getting more and more accustomed to seeing myself in pictures (and videos) can actually help with the issue, it can also be a trigger for me. I have spent most of my life hating any and all photos of myself (If you’ve ever noticed a lacking of photos of me on my blog, this is why.) My hatred of photos of myself has led to more than one argument with a friend who gets offended that I didn’t allow photos they took of me to live on my Facebook. It can be difficult to explain to a camera-happy friend that you think they’re awesome, but the photos she loved from that girls weekend makes me want to eat nothing but celery sticks and mustard for the rest of my life.
As one might imagine though, fashion blogging requires the use of photography. More than any other aspect, the idea of being in photographs—showcasing how much I don’t look like a model—feels very high-stakes to me. I’ve only recently started feeling okay with putting (some) photos of myself on my Instagram! But maybe that also makes it an important thing to do. Much like forcing myself on camera for my YouTube channel has actually become a positive influence with my body image issues, fashion blogging could push me out of my comfort zone and force me to become much more comfortable with how I look in photos. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, fashion blogging could be an opportunity to sort of lead by example. Demonstrate a way to maintain a healthy relationship with myself and my body image while living in a world that that is full of stressful situation and triggers. Try to be a constant reminder that beauty comes in all different body types. Plus, can I really consider my relationship with my body image healthy if I allow a fear of photographs take away my life-long enjoyment of fashion? I think not.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.